An Ode to Local Products

Aspasia Athinaiou
February 23, 2024

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No more avocado toast and croque-madames. From Thessaloniki to Crete and from Corfu to the Cycladic islands, menus are packed with bacon waffles, chocolate pancakes, bagels, banoffee pie, cinnamon rolls and cheesecakes, eggs Benedict, brioche etc, etc. What happened to the humble egg fried in olive oil, to galaktoboureko (custard pies) and loukoumades (deep-fried little donuts), to graviera and xynomyzithra cheeses, or to louza, syglino and apaki cured meats? There are so many wonderful products to be found in every part of the country.

We have tried so hard to get hotels to serve a “Greek breakfast,” to get rid of Frankfurter sausages, “toast bread” and generic sliced cheeses and replace them with the select products of their location, with sourdough bread and rusks, with Greek yogurt, honey, and fresh fruit, with real cheese and olives, Greek cured meats and freshly baked pies, with koulourakia biscuits and handmade marmalades.

Strapatsada, or kagianas, a traditional Greek egg dish with tomato and feta cheese

We have strived to introduce foreign visitors to the country’s authentic culinary legacy, its food customs, and traditions, so they can become ambassadors of Greek gastronomy when they return home.

Sure, Athens, Thessaloniki and other cities will and must embrace new trends, follow developments on the global food scene and offer a variety of choices. We’re not talking about adopting an introverted attitude here, but about moderation and balance, about restraint, basically. It makes sense to find pancakes and waffles in downtown Athens, but how does it make sense on an island or in some remote mountain destination?

If we don’t embrace Greekness ourselves, if we do not promote our own products with enthusiasm and creativity, and do not approach our traditions from a fresh perspective, how can we expect others to do so? How can we hope to project a distinct culinary identity abroad when we turn our own backs on it?

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